How far are we to go to not scandalize the “weaker” brother, as described by the Apostle Paul in his letters?
I’m particularly thinking of one instance in which he says that, while “we” know that eating meat sacrificed to idols is not sinful, there are those who are “weaker” who think it is sinful and that, therefore, it is sin to them. In this case, he advises that others do not meat sacrificed to idols so that it might not cause those who are weaker and who believe it sin also to eat meat sacrificed to idols.
This, to me, seems a very unique case of causing scandal and doesn’t even seem to be dealt with in the Catechism under the heading of “scandal”, which is interesting, though I’ve seen it addressed in other Catholic publications.
So, is my understanding of Paul’s words in the passage I cited above correct? So, then, if we are doing something that is not sinful but, if someone else thinks it is, are we still always to avoid doing this thing no matter what it is if there is even the slightest chance of causing another to stumble, again, even though our action, we know, is not sinful?
Or, rather, is some prudence (as is common) advised here? Must the someone only be “likely” to be drawn into what he considers to be sin by our non-sinful action before we should stop doing it? If thsi is the case, how “likely” must this be and how can we always know how likely it will be?
Furthermore, let us say that we are doing something that is, in Catholicism, completely innocent/not sinful, but that is considered sinful within a sect of Protestantism or even within another religion? Would the sin of “scandal” be charged to us if we still did this catholically ( now it’s a word ) non-sinful thing? Also, what if something we’re doing which is not deemed sinfl by the Church even offends someone’s morality who is not necessarily even “religious”? Are we not do do the non-sinful thing if it might cause anyone of any religion/sect/moral persuasion to fall into what he/she considers sin? Or, rather, are we only to avoid this action if we know someone of that religion/sect/moral persuasion who might be caused to stumble? (I am speaking here of both religious and non-religious/less directly religious activities.)
Back to more general examples, religious or not…:
Another possibility might be that we have definitely to know that there is a someone within our sphere of influence who most definitely is “weaker” in that he/she has already fallen into what he/she considers the “sin” of what we are doing before, ind oing what we are doing, it can be considered scandal. In this case, we are not held accountable by God if we do not definitely know that there is someone who is definitely weak in a particular area which is not sinful but which the weaker brother or sister thinks is sinful. Is this a valid interpretation? Agree? Disagree? Why?
OK, so, now, let’s get down to particular scanarios:
Are we scandalizing all the Amish by using modern technologies? What if they should desire to do these things even though they consider them sinful? What if we don’t directly know/have contact with Amis people? What if we simply live in some proximity to them? What if we don’t live anywhere near them?
Should we continue to eat meat even though we might cause vegans/vegetarians (whether Christian/Catholic or not) to stumble into that which they consider sinful? Even if we don’t know anyone directly, should we cease toe at meat? What if we do have someone in our sphere of influence who is vegan/vegetarian (Christian/Catholic or not)?
Same question goes for alcohol.
Now, here is one very particular to my own situation: I am a classicist/Latinist by training. Therefore, I have an interest in Graeco-Roman culture/language/literature, most of which is written by pagan writers, though I think that, filtered through a Christian lens, of course, there is something even to be learned from these works and there is beauty to be appreciated in them. I think studying these cultures also helps us to have not only greater understanding/empathy for them but also similar understanding/empathy for people in modern times. I am even licensed to teach Latin/the classics. However, I am sure that there are those out there who would consider what I do at the least morally questionable if not outright sinful for a number of reasons such as the pagan nature of the civilization I study, its tendency toward violence, its killing of Christ and persecution of Christians, etc. I suspect that there may even be those in my sphere of influence who consider this, if not outright sinful, at least rather morally questionable. However, I don’t believe that it is very likely that any of these people would suddenly take up classics, given that they may have negative views toward it. Still, that possibility just might exist, right? Would I or would I not, then, be charged with the sin of scandal if I persist in studying and even making a career of the classics?
I am interested in both the general questions on this matter as well as responses to the above specific examples.